Key verse: Deuteronomy 18:20
Big idea: All true prophets serve God's revealed covenant.
As the Israelites prepared to enter Canaan, they were facing a world that had elaborate ways of trying to tame the future. They had people who claimed to discern the future from the stars, who claimed to control it with charms and magic, or who said they could communicate with the dead or familiar spirits for wisdom and insight. The Israelites were expressly forbidden to partake in any of that. No horoscopes, no magic, no mediums. They were not special ways to get insight or harmless entertainment, they were the very sins for which the Canaanites were being expelled from the land. They were the rejection of the true authority and the embrace of idolatrous lies.
But God offered a better way. His prophets would not lead people astray to other gods, but would reinforce what He had already revealed. His prophets would have 100% accuracy - any error meant that they did not speak for the God who declares the end from the beginning. The purpose was not to satisfy their curiosity but to build their confidence in the One who holds tomorrow.
In fact, there was one more prophet par excellence who would come: a prophet like Moses. On Sinai, the Israelites had begged Moses to be their intermediary so that God would not speak to them directly again. After Moses died, there was not another prophet that spoke to God "face to face," until the promised Prophet came. The One who mediated God's presence would give the people a perfect Law, and give them a better Exodus. He would be an Israelite man like them but also the perfect revelation of God's character. The supreme prophet would do what all of the true prophets did: point people to God's Word. Jesus did not just tell us, He transformed us.
Discussion idea: Why are people so fascinated with the future? How does trust in God's faithfulness remove the need for details?
Prayer focus: Repent of any sources of comfort and security for the future you have chased instead of God. Ask Him to bring you satisfaction in His final revelation.
Key Verse: Luke 15:24
Big Idea: The Son of Man pursues us wherever we run.
When you think about the major blockbuster movies, novels, and TV shows in our day, you will find that many of the biggest, most captivating are love stories or stories of redemption. These two kinds of plots connect with the human heart in a special way, because they speak to a basic need we have for relationship and acceptance. With that in mind, it is no surprise that Luke 15 is among the most loved chapters in the Bible. It tells two short stories to set the scene and a final parable that tells a story of love and redemption, with a subplot of envy and bitterness.
Our setting: the Pharisees opposing Jesus, because of how close He is getting to sinners. The setup: Jesus tells two short stories. If you lost a sheep, you would go find it, and would be excited when you did. If you lost some money, you would tell all your neighbors when you found it again. The angels of God rejoice when a sinner is reclaimed by God, yet the Pharisees (who would be excited about a sheep or a coin) are angry that this person is found again.
To hit the nail squarely on the head, Jesus tells a final story. A man has two sons. The younger comes and asks the father to liquidate his assets and give him his inheritance now. Unthinkably, the father does so, and the younger son takes and wastes it all. He goes from being wealthy to slopping pigs and starving himself. He ‘comes to himself’ and decides to return to his father. But before he can get close, his father’s watching eye sees him and his father runs to throw his arms around him, forgiving him and restoring him. Although the son walked the road away from home alone, the father pursues him there when he returns. God’s love is like that. Although we might be excited about a sheep or a coin, how much more a child! Even though we have rejected God, He is still overjoyed when we return to Him, and He ran down to Earth to reclaim us.
Yet, there is a dark ending to the story. The older brother does not come to the celebration, but sits and sulks outside, although he would certainly have joined in celebrating a sheep or a coin recovered. When his father comes to him to bring him in, he is resentful and disrespectful. Like a spoiled brat, he ignores the blessings his father had given him to complain about the love being shown to his prodigal brother. The Pharisees who acted this way when Jesus came to the notorious sinners to reclaim them revealed they did not understand God’s heart. Like Jonah, they loved the material things of the world and resented people. The Son of Man did not come with that agenda. He came to love and to bring us home.
Discussion Idea: Do you ever get resentful when you see someone forgiven for something they have done wrong? Why do you think that we, forgiven sinners, do not value mercy more?
Prayer Focus: Praise God for reclaiming us with joy and pray we could see people more as He does.